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'Large-scale return of Syrians could negatively affect economy'

By JT - Apr 17,2019 - Last updated at Apr 17,2019

Speakers at the West Asia-North Africa (WANA) Institute and Mercy Corps report releasing ceremony on Wednesday address attendees on the impact of Syrian labour on Jordan's economy (Photo courtesy of WANA)

AMMAN — The West Asia-North Africa (WANA) Institute and Mercy Corps on Wednesday released a report warning of possible negative impacts on the economy if Syrian refugees were to leave Jordan en masse.

The research was aimed to measure the impact of Syrian labour on Jordan’s economy and was part of a UK Aid-funded project, according to a statement sent to The Jordan Times. The report found that in 2017 around 55 per cent of the 361,862 working-age Syrians were active in the Jordanian labour market.

According to the research, formal employment for Syrian refugees — agriculture, construction, food and beverage services, manufacturing, and wholesale and retail trade — only account for a small proportion of overall Syrian refugee employment.

As a result, Syrian labour participation has likely affected the wages of informal Jordanian workers, yet appears to have had little effect on the wages of formalised workers, the report said.

In the report, researchers looked at the growth patterns in the formal employment sectors and found that between 2011 and 2016, the sectors showed varied patterns of GDP, employment and investment growth. Using the results, researchers concluded that investing in agriculture was the most cost-effective way to boost employment and GDP, while investing in manufacturing was the least effective from a cost-benefit perspective.

The large number of refugees has also caused a rise in assistance operations in Jordan led by international organisations and NGOs. This created capacity-building opportunities for Jordanians and technology integration such as iris scanning and access to assistance funds via ATMs. According to the report, these operations have created thousands of jobs for Jordanians within the humanitarian response sector as well as numerous indirect jobs across other sectors.

The researchers warned that a drawdown of operations in the aftermath of a large-scale return would have consequences for all those who have gained employment or whose businesses have benefited as a result of the Syrian refugee population.

A discussion panel held to review the report at release consisted of Reem Goussous, managing director of Endeavour Jordan; Laith Qassim, head of Jordan Compact Investments; Samar Muhareb, CEO of Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development; and Hunter Keith, country director of Mercy Corps. The event was moderated by Omar Rifai, director general of the WANA Institute, the statement concluded.

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